It’s good to talk

The end of June saw the annual CIMA Member in Practice Conference. You may not have any idea what that is but suffice to say it involves lots of accountants getting together for a two day shindig.

Your next thought may well be “Nightmare!”

But I am here to tell you we have the BEST fun and our speakers give us terrific feedback about how they find us as an audience!

For me it is a great opportunity to spend two days just thinking about my own business and not those of my clients. I come away with a shed load of new ideas and more new friends and contacts than I can shake a stick at.

In the past I have presented in break out rooms to a smaller subset of the total audience. This has meant a workshop style of presentation is possible – and fairly low stress if you prepare well.

This conference though I was down to do a main stage slot, for an hour, to pretty much everyone! I even had a couple of the key note speakers (proper professionals on the speaker circuit) sitting in. So no pressure!

Talking on the main stage is a completely different ball game than presenting a workshop and requires a different way of preparing.

For one thing it is less interactive meaning you are less guided by audience questions and have to be more prepared to take the gamble that you are covering all the information the audience may want or need.

You also need to put more effort into producing slides (I don’t usually do slides as death by powerpoint is the death of many presentations) which were engaging.

Thankfully everything went off well and I had some great feedback from MiPs afterwards – I even sold some copies of a book I had written on the theme of my talk.

It was a great experience and one I would be glad to do again – getting out of your comfort zone is generally a good thing. If you can, give it a try!

Fiona 🙂

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Row, Row, Row your boat

Over last month my son Simon was involved in the bumps rowing (Summer Eights) for his college Oriel at Oxford.

Rowing is one of those sports which involves a group of individuals pulling together to achieve a common result. Unlike traditional team sports like rugby or football there is little interaction between the individual rowers during the race – but they are a team none the less.

For many business owners who work on their own having a team of others around them who can ‘join their boat’ at key points, can be a great way to move their businesses forward.

Last month I had a great example of this.

I meet people through networking I think may well be able to help clients and contacts of mine in various ways. However, it can be difficult to guage how these people work and what it feels like to use their services.

Rachael Wheatley, of Bluegreen Learning, was one such individual. We had met at Curious Conversations and the Bristol Circle events and got on well from the start.

But how to know assess Rachael’s approach to marketing strategy? And how to facilitate her understanding of how I help business owners to master their finances?

It struck me that the easiest way for each of us to do some relevant work the other.

I needed a fresh look at how I found new clients and engaged with them, and Rachael and her husband Rob needed to do some 3 year business planning work – for which they needed some robust figures.

By the end of the two half day sessions (one concentrated on my busines and one concentrated on hers) we had achieved what we needed for our businesses – and as a bonus we both had a clear idea of how the other worked.

I found the whole exercise enlightening and would now have no hesitation in recommending Rachael. Hopefully Rachael feels the same way!

Fiona 🙂

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All hands on deck

Having had an extension built to our house last year the next task on our list this year is to sort out the garden – and a key part of that task is to build some decking.

So we started off by drawing up a plan asking ourselves some key questions:
1. What is our budget?
2. What should the deck look like?
3. Who should build the deck?
4. Where should we get the decking and other materials from?
5. When do we want the deck built?

As you will know from previous articles I am a great believer in getting a professional to do a professional job. However, my husband Jeff is pretty handy at woodwork so we decided we would do the work ourselves – thus handily reducing the budget needed – and I would be his labourer!

A couple of Saturdays ago was D day!

We had to make sure we had all the tools and materials we needed before the weekend as the time we had available to complete the job was limited.

Google was a great help in providing tips and hints on how best to build a deck and what quantities of wood etc. we would need to build the size of deck we aspired to.

We did our homework and investigated several suppliers of decking to find the best quality materials for the lowest possible price.
Luckily, we were able to use a local supplier of decking, posts and screws who delivered everything in good time and for free!

The only new tool we needed – a fence post borer – along with the brackets and post crete, we also sourced ahead of time.

This gave us a clear two days to get the job done. Day one was taken up with sinking the 15 posts needed to build the frame on, and building the frame. Day two was attaching the decking.

The result? A great looking addition to our garden, which came in on budget, and was completed in the timescale we had given ourselves. This would not have been the case had we not done the legwork at the outset and planned everything effectively.

The lesson from all of this? If you have a project, whether business or personal, plan for success and you are much more likely to get the results you need.

Fiona 🙂

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Master your Business Finances

If you are interested in mastering your business finances perhaps you would like to download the interview I did with Alan Philpott of Glastonbury FM.

Posted in Small Business Confidence, Small Business Effectiveness, Small Business Entrepreneur, Small Business Finance, Small Business Owner, Small Business Strategy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Business Planning is Great – Part 3

And finally here is Part 3 of the Glastonbury FM Business Planning radio show.

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Business Planning is Great – Part 2

Following on from my blog last week here is the second part of my Business Planning radio appearance on Glastonbury FM for you to download.

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Business Planning is Great!

The other day I had a great session with Rachael Wheatley from Bluegreen Learning looking at my marketing strategy.

In truth I have been pretty good at creating marketing collateral but not so good at using it effectively and strategically. Most of the items I have published have been – like this post – written.

However, I did some radio interviews with Glastonbury FM a couple of years ago, which have been broken down into bite sized chunks. I am pretty pleased with them so am going to republish them on LinkedIn.

Below is the first bite sized piece on Business Planning and can be downloaded from Soundcloud – enjoy.

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Start as you mean to go on!

screen-shot-2017-04-25-at-13-39-04Small businesses are the mainstay of the UK economy. Forget the large companies – small businesses are where it is at!

The UK is a nation of entrepreneurs and we brits are great at taking the plunge into business ownership – whether it is a self employed professionals or as small business owners employing staff.

However, for many entrepreneurs taking the plunge is not the hardest part – it is running a successful company in the longer term that provides the stress.

The problem here is that the prospective entrepreneur has often not done their homework.

In particular:

  1. They have an idea they are sure is going to work, but have not done a full business plan to explore whether it can be converted into a successful business.
  2. They have not consulted appropriate professionals to ensure their company is set up in the best way.
  3. They don’t align their personal and business goals. They soon find their business running their lives rather than them running their businesses.
  4. They don’t finance their business sufficiently from the outset, which means they can never afford to do jobs properly. Marketing in particular often suffers in this scenario.
  5. Because they haven’t planned properly they don’t fully appreciate the risks involved in setting up their business until it is too late.

Starting your own business is a BIG step. If it fails you may not just lose your livelihood but also your house (and your family if you have had to work very long hours).

It makes sense to give your business the best possible chance of succeeding.

To help I have written a guide on starting your own business which can be downloaded for free from my website

I have tried to cover all the issues you will need to think about before taking the plunge as well as some of the things which might trip you up.


Fiona 🙂

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Are you an April fool?

getting paid





Over the years I have met business owners who offer a great product or service but are really struggling with their cash control.

One of the reasons is exemplified by a conversation I had the other day with just such a business owner. They have no problems finding the right customer and do a fantastic job for these customers.

However, the business owner has a real stumbling block when it comes to invoicing and debt collection. Firstly, they hate the process of invoicing itself – it is a chore they put off as long as possible. Secondly, once the invoices have gone out they are very reluctant to chase for the money owing to them.

In my opinion they are being an April (and every other month of the year) fool.

They are working hard but because they are not following through, and collecting the money owing to them in a timely fashion, they are struggling to pay their bills.

What makes the situation worse is that they have employees they MUST pay every month irrespective of whether the business is paid or not.

There is a clear lesson to learn here – if you are unable, or unwilling, to deal with the discipline of invoicing and debt collection you must find another way of getting these jobs done. If you don’t, you may lose your business.

So what are the alternative approaches you can take?

Firstly, many bookkeepers are more than willing, and able, to take on the invoicing and debt collection roles for you. The benefits of delegation will way out-weigh the costs.

Secondly, you may already have a member of staff on your team who can take on these jobs.

Thirdly, if you really have to do these jobs yourself, you must change the way in which you approach them. Have a very clear procedure detailing exactly how often invoicing should be done (at least once a week would be my recommendation), block out time in your diary every week devoted to invoicing and debt collection, and understand that any work you do for clients is worthless unless you are paid for it!

For extra help with invoicing and debt collection please download the ‘Getting Paid’ guide on my website

Good luck

Fiona 🙂

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Put the spring into your step!

unexpected-friendsI have just been for a lovely walk in the spring sunshine and I have to say I feel good!

Many people use their renewed energy to do some spring cleaning. Suddenly streets are filled with car washing, lawn mowing and window cleaning activity.

As it is good to give our homes a bit of a spring clean and declutter, so it is good to regularly review our businesses to see what needs to be cleared out.

I come across plenty of businesses who spend cash on new filing cabinets, folders and storage space because they are being swamped with paperwork – invoices, payroll reports, government letters etc.

So what can you do to make sure you don’t fill your offices unnecessarily with paperwork?

Firstly, check to see how long you need to keep specific government and tax related records. In most cases the limit is 6-7 years. Anything older than that can be properly disposed of. There are great companies out there such as ShredIt who come to your premises and make sure that any papers are disposed of securely and completely.

Secondly, there are many systems these days which allow you to scan and save important documents in a properly organised, virtual filing system. This will allow you to save digital copies of any documents and dispose of the hard copies. The initial work to digitise past records may be a bit of a pain, but once over that first hurdle you should find it easy to digitise documents as they come into your offices.

Of course you will need to ensure that you have robust back up systems – but then you should have those in place anyway.

As part of the clear out process it is worthwhile checking that you are up to date with the statutory data protection requirements as they apply to your business.

Happy spring cleaning!
Fiona 🙂

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